Watch the Road, Warren G(hee)!: Combating Envy and Its Cousins

I didn’t think I was going to sweat a year-end post because I just don’t have the time or mental capacity to do it in the next few days. Reflect? What’s that? I used to do a lot of that but reflecting and processing seem like a real luxury these days.

I don’t know how I ended up posting a few casual pics of my family on Facebook for Christmas. They weren’t LIES per se as those were moments from my family’s holidays, but emotionally speaking, uh, yeah, they were lies.

I wanted to be part of Social Media’s Christmas, y’all. Even as a believer who believes that Jesus is truly the Reason for the Season, I wanted to throw up a few cute pics and be part of that other merriment that YOU PEOPLE seem to be partaking in. Sure, we also partook but oh, there was some pain, some deep, eviscerating pain.

I didn’t want to write about the pain because I’m still in the thick of it, and maybe I’ve been in the thick of it most of 2013.

So after throwing up some pics and scrolling through my Newsfeed instead of processing what is going on inside me these days, I saw an irate status update from a new acquaintance, someone I would like to go sit down for tea with. It caught my eye in the midst of many junk posts (mostly dominated by Huffington Post articles). It was one of the rarer raw updates I’ve seen, especially during this season of Merry-Merry-Happy-Happy-Shiny-Ornaments-Look-at-My-Family.

She was venting about her relative who was comparing her to her cousins and using each relative as a standard for who she should become.

What a way to build up someone at a Christmas gathering.

And boom, after I wrote to her, I had to grab my laptop and start writing this.

Why do folks feel free to size up someone so easily based on all the drivel on paper? To compare someone to someone else who is making a fat salary or has a spouse and a few kids? So what? You don’t know the full arc of someone’s life. How dare you make someone feel Less Than? Have you ever truly wanted to become someone’s friend based on things On Paper?

If I’m trying to reach anyone in that paragraph, I’m actually yelling at myself. I had to face a lot of demons in 2013. Still trying to exorcise them.

In many ways, it was a disgusting year for me. I dunno how to describe it because I’m still going through it but here’s an attempt: I think my soul became septic from comparing, or envy or something akin to it. I’ve been hard on myself ever since I was a little girl, maybe even a toddler, but it got worse this year.

First, I noticed I started to rebel against gratitude here and there. It was too in my face. Too preachy. So trendy. Too easy. Too Live Your Best Life.

“Count your blessings!” Yeah, I already do, thank you, but May I Please Just Feel? Something other than constant, unwavering gratitude?

Of course I can be grateful…until I couldn’t. And when I took pause on practicing gratitude actively and regularly, I began to choke.

When I was stressing about my Ellis’ Doljanchi (Korean First Birthday Feast), one of my most supportive friends tried to get me to see the big picture as I worried about details that only a mama can tend to. She said something about how I shouldn’t forget that my birthday boy is so healthy and blessed, not sick like so many other kids, and I have this privilege of planning his first birthday, not some somber event. Trying to get me to see the forest, not the trees and leaves that needed raking.

Of course I knew in my head that this was just some minor event planning for such a celebratory occasion but I tend to get overwhelmed because I can’t slow down my mind and I snowball with a dozen other lists I have to check off while wrangling the kids.

I confessed, I was Warren Motherf*cking G(hee) in that moment because I seen plenty of peers just as blessed as me with their own healthy kids…plus amenities…LOTS of amenities.

I want it all; money, healthy kee-ids
Diamond rings, big houses and parking spaces
Shit, every damn thing
I want it all; houses, expenses
My own cleaning lady, a sitter, hmm, and a couple o’ Benz’s
I want it all; brand new socks and drawls
And I’m ballin everytime I stop and talk to y’all
I want it all, all, all, all
I want it all, all, all, all, all

So this year was ugly for me. This whole comparing business – something I’ve always struggled with, but 2013 brought on a bad flare-up. Whether it was in real life or on my Facebook Newsfeed, I started feeling sorry for myself and becoming really bitter that I didn’t have what others took for granted. Not just material things but yes, some material things, too. Major house envy. Major date night envy. Craving beauty and luxury. Wanting a long break from the day-to-day drudgery of raising young ‘uns.

And envy makes you downright ugly. Ain’t no one lookin’ beautiful when eyerolling. A lotta, “I bet she wouldn’t even know what to do if she had to watch her kids on her own all the time,” or, “MUST BE NICE! Free date night every freaking week! Y’all must have a way better marriage than us sad sacks.” Isolating myself because I was judging like a fiend and didn’t feel safe sharing my thoughts even with my closest friends. Only allowing those who have more to deal with than me to speak on being tired or overwhelmed. No one wants to be known as a Debbie Downer.

And I keep feeling like I have to couch everything with, “I KNOW I AM BLESSED with my little family of four, aight!?” I want permission to feel. Without explaining myself.

Back to my acquaintance on Facebook. What is up with this tendency to compare? It was so hurtful to me when my parents did it but I’m already doing it to my kids. “Why don’t you eat well like your brother? You want people to think Ellis is the big brother because he eats so well and will grow so big?” “You don’t see the other kids in the shopping cart trying to jump around!?”

I have someone in my life, by way of marriage, who is especially hurtful to me. She likes to tell me innocent stories of women who get paid, women who are not stay-at-home moms and burdens to their husbands, of relatives who get paid, of relatives who share what they get paid with her. She judges people according to zip codes and salaries and I am always feeling Less Than for my choices.

And it makes me livid.

Like Teresa Giudice Livid where I have to take deep, cleansing breaths.

When my Micah started scootin’ around on his little scooter, he would always look back at me, to see if I’m watching. I would shout, “Watch the road, Micah! Watch the road or else you will fall!”

I have to watch the road in 2014.

Easier said than done. But I have to watch MY road and not look at others’ seemingly better paved roads. And I’m not going to pressure myself to not notice others’ lives at all because I am part of society and I live amongst y’all but I don’t want to allow something evil to take root while I’m gazing at others’ roads.

Kevin also challenged me with a nugget. When this relative struck recently over the holidays and I was reeling from anger, he asked me what I was feeling. He wants me to practice Naming My Feelings. I found out recently that for such a self-aware and emotional person, I don’t know how I actually FEEL beyond the surface emotion of Anger.

I kept saying that I was so hurt and so angry. But why? How does someone else have such influence over my feelings of worth? Hmmm….

So as we start off anew in 2014, I would like to Watch The Road more and better Name That Feeling. And read some more Bible and meaty, smart books about my worth not being dictated by others.

And lay off that Facebook Newsfeed. (But ummmm, feel free to hollaaa if you gots comments on this post, ‘nah mean?)

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6 thoughts on “Watch the Road, Warren G(hee)!: Combating Envy and Its Cousins

  1. Thank you for your honest post! I’m going to be on that boat of watching the road in 2014 as well.

    It’s really hard though, when people compare you to someone else, but it’s almost like an ingrained thing now, this shaming of someone based on someone else’s success. Why can’t we just embrace and celebrate our differences?

    But I go off on a tangent.

    Trying to name the feelings though, that’s super tough – I’m finding out …

  2. WOW, I LOVE this post. I always enjoy reading your writing b/c you have a gift and such an awesome way of putting onto paper (or the Internet) exactly what I am feeling. I feel like I used to be “happy” Jean; the girl who would walk around feeling like “I can’t believe this is my life!” But, ever since leaving NY, I have lost that person. Living in places without friends or family close by has been extremely challenging. Having children, whom I love more than life itself, has truly been a game changer in my marriage and we are working to establish a relationship with each other again outside of the kids. I know I have been blessed with many of the things you mentioned in your post, but I too have found myself in the same place. I know I am lucky to be a SAHM, but sometimes I wish for a job outside the home. Yet I know in my heart that I would be saddened by missing out on the kids’ moments and my duties as CEO of this household would remain intact along with the responsibilities of a job outside the home. This would not bode well for my marriage or relationship. So, as 2013 draws to a close, I vow to do as you do…watch my road, look for the things that make me happy and work towards getting back to that “happy” Jean. I realize that my family life can’t truly be happy if I am unhappy. I am always thinking of you…

  3. There’s a quote on pinterest that says, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” You’ve probably seen it if you spend as much time on there as I do. We all have a tendency to put our “best” face forward, especially on a medium like FB.

    I was a psychotherapist before I became a stay-at-home mom, and I can tell you unequivocally that EVERYONE has problems. Everything you’re feeling is normal, and you should never have to apologize for how you are feeling to anyone. Yes, you should apologize if you let your feelings rip somebody a new one–but simply having the feelings is always okay.

    Happy New Year. I’m glad to have found your blog, and I look forward to reading more of whatever you want to write about in 2014.

  4. As Always J. I am really suckerpunched by your post. Thanks for always pushing me beyond my carefully laid “feel up to here and no farther” lines I put down. Sorry for asking how your Christmas was the other day. Personally mine kinda sucked. I was waiting in a train station in Philly on Christmas eve instead of being in a nice contemplative service. Then on Christmas my family had a huge knock down drag out fight bc they can’t bother to be honest about what they are really feeling about each other even though they talk to each other everyday on the phone and had just spent like two weeks together. I also have had a year of pain. Coming clean about all the rot inside me has been uncomfortable and has often made me bitter. In the recovery process, I have attacked loved ones more vehemently than before. Happy to know honesty is still in play on this blog…Thanks

    • i didn’t get a chance to comment on the others but here is a quick drive-by comment to yours, julie! of COURSE you can always ask how i’m doing! i just remember running into you at church and you giving me a great big bear hug while being so loving towards my boys! sorry for your pain, girl. i think i’m using this blog to help sort my shit out though of course learning which stuff i should leave to my journal, God, close friends. brene brown called it a vulnerability hangover when you share then regret it so i gotta really read her book asap, though i’ve a list of other books to read. again, sorry for all that you feelin’ and going thru, esp. with your family and within yourself.

  5. Pingback: “Set your minds on things above…” | ajummama

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